If you’re one of the many battling back pain, you might perk up at this news: Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist known as the “posture guru” in Silicon Valley, thinks she’s found the solution to back pain—and it’s all in the shape of the spine. While struggling with her own back pain, Gokhale studied several indigenous cultures that didn’t seem to experience back pain. She found that, in contrast to a typical American's spine which curves like an S, many indigenous peoples’ spines are shaped like a J, resulting in straighter posture and little to no back pain. Upon this discovery, Gokhale developed a series of exercises that helped reshape her spine into a J-shape and relieved her back pain. She now teaches others these exercises at her studio in Palo Alto, CA.
However, not everyone agrees that back pain stems from which letter of the alphabet your spine resembles. Dr. Praveen Mummaneni, a neurosurgeon at the University of California, San Francisco's Spine Center believes that we need to investigate why Americans’ spines have adopted the S-shape in the first place. One reason, he speculates, may be that Americans tend to be more sedentary and are heavier around the mid-section than indigenous people, which can both contribute to spine curvature. He also states that it’s commonly known that strong core muscles increase postural stability and can help decrease back pain—which may be the real secret to Gokhale’s exercises. If you’d like to see if Gokhale’s method can help relieve your back pain, try these simple exercises throughout the day:
- Roll your shoulders. Pull your shoulders up, roll them back, and let them drop to get rid of your hunch; your arms should now dangle by your side with your thumbs pointing out.
- Lengthen your spine. Stretch up as you take a deep breath and maintain that height as you exhale.
- Engage those gluts. Keep your gluteus medius tight when you walk; these muscles support your lower back.
- Stretch your neck. Balance a light object on the crown of your head and push upwards, angling your chin down to lengthen your neck.
- Don’t arch your back. Follow the above tips to ensure that you don’t arch your back when trying to attain proper posture.